Each Wednesday, Weston Hodkiewicz provides an inside look at the Green Bay Packers in his Walkthrough blog.
At first glance, it appears the Packers are in for an easier schedule next season.
The Packers’ 2016 slate was finalized after Sunday’s 20-13 loss to Minnesota. Because Green Bay finished as the runner-up in the NFC North, its two previously undecided intra-conference games will be against the corresponding second-place teams from the NFC West (Seattle) and NFC South (Atlanta).
If the Packers had beaten the Vikings, they would have been pitted against NFC South champion Carolina (15-1) and NFC West champion Arizona (13-3), the top seeds in the NFC playoffs.
The combined 2015 record of next season's 13 opponents is 93-115, with only five games scheduled against returning playoff teams: Seattle (10-6), Houston (9-7), Washington (9-7) and two against Minnesota (11-5). Additionally, the three-year NFC rotation and four-year AFC rotation has the Packers playing the worst divisions from either conference: the NFC East (26-38) and AFC South (25-39).
The Packers played seven of their 16 regular-season games against playoff teams this season and went 3-4 in those games. Green Bay’s opponents finished with a combined 112-102 record.
The NFL’s realignment in 2002 resulted in eight divisions with four teams and introduced a scheduling formula that guarantees that all teams play each other on a regular, rotating basis. It consists of a three-year rotation against divisions in your conference with four-year intervals against the other conference.
Dates and times for games on the 2016 schedule are typically announced in April.
Until then, here’s a quick look at the Packers’ opponents for 2016…
Seattle (10-6): The Seahawks return to Lambeau Field after falling to Green Bay 27-17 on Sept. 20.
Dallas (4-12): The Packers improved to 14-12 in the regular season against the Cowboys after a 28-7 win at Lambeau Field on Dec. 13.
New York Giants (6-10): Green Bay is 27-23-2 against the Giants, who’ll have a new coach after Tom Coughlin stepped down on Tuesday. Former Packers assistant and current New York offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo reportedly is interviewing for the position.
Houston (9-7): The Packers will face the Texans for the fourth time in the regular season. It’s the teams’ first meeting since the Packers upset Houston 42-24 on Oct. 14, 2012.
Indianapolis (8-8): The Packers will square off against the Colts for the first time since losing to Indianapolis 30-27 on Oct. 7, 2012. The Colts gave Chuck Pagano a four-year extension on Monday night to remain as their head coach.
Atlanta (8-8): The Packers are 15-12 against the Falcons all-time. Green Bay has won the last four games in the series since beating Atlanta 48-21 in the divisional playoffs on Jan. 15, 2011.
Philadelphia (7-9): The Packers saw the Eagles in either the preseason or regular season in each of Chip Kelly’s three years in Philadelphia. Now, Green Bay will see what follows. The Packers are 25-14 all-time against the Eagles in a series that began in 1933.
Washington (9-7): Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s wild-card matchup, the Packers will have a rematch with Washington next season.
Jacksonville (5-11): The Packers are 3-2 against Jacksonville. It likely will be the first time Green Bay will see former fourth-round pick Davon House, who signed a four-year, $25 million contract with the Jaguars last offseason. House had 60 tackles and four interceptions in his first year with Jacksonville.
Tennessee (3-13): The Titans hold the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
Minnesota (11-5): The Vikings won their first NFC North title since 2010 behind Sunday's 20-13 victory over Green Bay.
Detroit (7-9): The Lions began to turn their season around when they beat Green Bay 18-16 in November for their first win in Wisconsin in 24 years. Detroit won six of its last eight games to end the season, though it remains to be seen whether it'll be enough to save head coach Jim Caldwell's job.
Chicago (6-10): The Bears hoped their 17-13 win over the Packers on Thanksgiving would keep their playoff hopes alive, but instead they won only one more game the remainder of the season. The Bears showed significant strides in John Fox's first year as head coach with offensive coordinator Adam Gase becoming a popular head-coaching candidate based off his work with quarterback Jay Cutler.
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